Q: “Most people seem to assume Christians are judgmental hypocrites. How do we reach people who just assume we’re judgemental?” - Abby K.
Why do they think that? Well, mostly because it’s true! Many Christians out there ARE judgemental hypocrites! And that’s a very bad thing!
That’s another reason why it’s important for us to judge those who profess to be Christians. If a person doesn’t claim to be a Christian, then we shouldn’t judge them because we aren’t supposed to judge those outside the church. But, if a person claims to be a Christian, then they are representing Christ! So, if they’re doing anything to MISrepresent Christ, then we need to confront them.
Misrepresenting Christ is an extremely serious thing! They will do an unbelievable amount of damage as they give many many people the wrong idea of who Jesus is and what Christianity is all about.
Every new non-Christian you meet, you’ll have to follow a ton of previous encounters with judgemental and hypocritical Christians who’ve really left a bad taste in their mouth about Christianity. It’ll be up to us to try and explain the truth to them and attempt to undo the damage that’s been done.
The easiest way to undo the damage is to agree with them. Agree with them that many Christians are indeed judgemental hypocrites, and explain to them why that goes against everything Jesus taught. That gives you a great opportunity to apologize to them on behalf of all the Christians who have hurt them, and they’ll be very receptive to what you have to say.
Okay, but how do you make sure that YOU don’t become judgemental or hypocritical yourself? It’s an incredibly easy trap to fall into!
Well, I’m glad you asked. I now present to you, 10 ways to not be a judgemental hypocrite.
10 ways to not be a judgemental hypocrite
Obviously these aren’t the only ways, but these are the ways I’ve learned from experience. Let’s take it one at a time.
#1 – Realize that you don’t know very much
The first thing you need to do is realize that in reality you don’t know very much. In fact, the more you know, the more you realize you DON’T know! If we think we know most everything, it’s only because our knowledge is so limited that we don’t see all the things we can’t explain.
It’s hard for many people, including myself, to admit that some things we’ll never understand. But, we must give up that control to God and trust that He knows everything and that we need to completely rely on Him.
#2 – Realize we’re terrible at judging
And not only do we not know very much, one of the things we know the least about is why other people do what they do. In fact, studies have shown very conclusively that we humans are absolutely AWFUL at guessing the motivations of other people and why they make the decisions they make.
Unfortunately, even though we are so embarrassingly terrible at it, we tend to have an enormous amount of confidence in it. If there’s any ability we should be completely unsure about, it’s our ability to judge others.
The problem is that we assume everyone else is like ourselves, so if someone does something that we would never do because we think it’s wrong then we assume the only reason why someone else would do it is because they are a bad person. But, the reality is that people are vastly different and you can’t project your motivations onto others.
#3 – Put yourself in others’ shoes
Try to always put yourself in other peoples’ shoes. While we love to think about people as being either good or bad, the truth is that we are all bad people. And the reality is that the vast majority of the time, if you were born with their genes and went through all their experiences you would make the exact same decision they made.
God gave us free choice, but we humans are shockingly predictable. When faced with choices we make the one we think is the best. What determines which choices we view as best is based largely upon our past experiences and the framework through which we see those choices. We all have limited information about pretty much all the choices in any given situation. And which choice we decide to be better is often determined by which specific bits of information we have.
And people’s needs and desires are very different due to differing backgrounds. The needs and desires of someone who has NEVER felt love are going to be different than someone who grew up in a Christian household SHOWERED in love.
All humans have basically the same needs and desires, but we all have some of those needs filled and some not. And the strength of those needs and desires in our life are dependent on which ones are filled and how MUCH they’re filled. If you’re starved of a specific need, then that will likely become your strongest motivation.
Add that motivation to a framework based on a unique perspective created through your combination of experiences and exposure to different amounts of knowledge and you can see how people would have very differing opinions of which choices are better than others.
Remember, what matters is NOT how good we are. What matters is whether or not we realize that we are sinners and rely completely on Jesus’ sacrifice to save us and give us what we don’t deserve.
#4 – What would justify their action?
Because we’re so bad at judging motivation and because there’s a very good chance that we would make the exact same decision if we were in their shoes, it’s very important to always give people the benefit of the doubt.
The best way to do this, in my experience, is to always try and think of a situation where their action would be justified or at the very least completely understandable. Say you’re driving and some car zooms recklessly around you going twice your speed. What would you think? What if someone cuts you off or almost hits you because they’re on their phone while driving? What would you think?
If you are like most people, you’d start yelling out judgments of those people. You’d assume the fast car was some selfish maniac and the person on the phone was a careless idiot who is inconsiderate of others.
But, what if the maniac was really a husband rushing his wife to the hospital? Or rushing to make sure he doesn’t miss the birth of his first child? What if the person on the phone is talking with a suicidal friend trying to keep them from pulling the trigger long enough for her to get there?
You may be thinking that if YOU were in one of those extreme situations you’d react differently. Maybe so, but does that mean they’re bad people, idiots, or maniacs for making the choices they made? It’s almost impossible to really know how you would react in stressful situations because you don’t have the hormones rushing through your body that you would if you were actually in the situation. Our brains operate very differently under extreme conditions than they do normally.
I recently heard a pretty funny story of a woman eating in the food court who saw a young man at another table staring at her chest blatantly in public for an extended amount of time. She got very upset, walked over and yelled loudly at him calling him a pervert and told him to leave. The man apologized, put his sunglasses on, took out his blind man’s cane and slowly walked away. The other mall patrons saw what happened and said some pretty nasty things about the woman for being so mean.
I know of another, somewhat similar story about a pastor making a snide remark during a sermon about a couple in the back who refused to stop talking during the service. He later found out that the person was legally deaf and the friend was repeating the pastor’s words to him so that he could hear the sermon.
Now, I realize that these are exceptions and most of the time it’s not the case. But, a certain percentage of the time it will be. And there’s absolutely no way for us to know which times those are. So, to be fair, we should always assume that there’s a very good reason why they’re doing what they’re doing. It may inconvenience us, or even endanger us, but getting mad at them and passing judgement won’t do any good. All it does is selfishly try to heal our own pride and make us feel good by putting someone else down, even if it’s just in our mind.
If you’ll never see the person again, then I would advise just letting it go. But, if the situation is serious and the person isn’t a stranger, then I would approach the person later and ask if everything is alright. After they respond, calmly describe the situation and how it made you feel. Make sure you don’t make any accusations or judgements, and give them an opportunity to explain. If it turns out they were just being a jerk, THEN you can yell at them. In love, of course.
I’m sure you can think of times in your life when YOU were unfairly judged. Of course, in THOSE situations we criticize those who judged US as being JUDGEMENTAL IDIOTS. It’s amazing how it’s never US who’s in the wrong. If WE do something bad it’s an honest mistake, or a justifiable decision. But, if anyone ELSE does something bad, it says something about their character.
Jesus tells us to treat others the way we want them to treat us, and he tells us that God will judge US how we judge others. So, it’s important to judge others in the way we want them to judge us.
When you feel the urge to make a judgement on someone, try to make it a point to always come up with a possible situation where the person’s actions would be completely understandable and imagine that that is exactly what happened. Sometimes, you’ll be right!
#5 – Try to see others as God sees them
And try to see other people the way God sees them. I’ll admit that I really struggle with this and I’ve prayed many times that God will allow me to see others the way He does. Even the biggest jerk and the nastiest hobo are God’s beautiful creation and He loves them more than we will ever love anything. He loved them so much that Jesus went through the ultimate punishment so that they can have a relationship with Him.
And instead of comparing others to ourselves, we should compare ourselves to God and see that they aren’t that much further from God than we are. Compared to the holy perfection of God we’re nothing. Remember, the only good things about us are because of God. Our holiness is nothing we earned or deserved. It’s something given to us because Jesus went through the punishment we deserve. It doesn’t make us better than anyone, it just means that we have God’s salvation, and they can have it too!
#6 – Compare weaknesses
This one is my favorite. Most judgement seems to come from people comparing their strengths to other people’s weaknesses. For instance, if someone has a gambling problem, we might judge them more harshly because we DON’T have problems gambling.
We may get frustrated or impatient because they keep slipping up and going back to gambling. Their struggles make no sense to us because to us not gambling is easy. We tend to focus too much on the isolated issue and judge them as being less of a Christian or not as good of a person as we are because they struggle with the issue and we don’t.
But, the reality is that we all have areas we struggle with. Every single one of us without exception. We all have weaknesses. We all have issues in which at one time or another we kept slipping up and doing what we know is bad for us. What we need to do is compare other people’s weaknesses with OUR weaknesses. I may not have a gambling problem, but I might have a long-running struggle with pornography, or gossip, or overspending, or I may struggle with not always telling the truth, or emotional manipulation. Whatever it is, I should compare their gambling struggle with my struggle.
Remember the cycle of conviction and growth? As long as the person is still in the cycle, that’s what matters. They may be in that stage where they’re struggling with something, but as long as they haven’t completely given up, then we should have patience with them and give them encouragement. And hopefully you’ll have someone to encourage YOU when YOU go through that stage.
It’s not uncommon for younger Christians to even slip up and turn away from God briefly during the stage of struggle. But, if their relationship with God is real, God won’t let them stay away long without becoming miserable with conviction. Have patience and understanding during this time.
Try to remember what it was like when you struggled with a sin. You may not be struggling with something as obvious as gambling or pornography at the moment, but you have in the past. And if you haven’t struggled with anything in a while, you need to seek God and make sure you haven’t become a stagnant Christian. There will always be things God wants you to work on and change as long as you are on this earth. Eventually you’ll get to the point where your struggles aren’t things like gambling or pornography, but things like not gossiping, not judging, spending more time with God, forgiving others, trusting in God, showing more love, giving up control, etc. whatever it is that God is convicting you of and wanting you to do.
#7 – God may not have convicted them yet
Another important thing to remember about the cycle of conviction and growth is that God doesn’t convict us of everything at once. It’s a process. Just because God convicted you of something early on doesn’t mean that He’s convicted your friend of it. God may convict you of drinking alcohol but not convict someone else of it. Now, if they’re doing something that’s a very clearly stated sin from the bible and they are unrepentant about it, then God might lead you to confront your fellow believer about it.
But, it’s also possible that God is currently working with Him on an even bigger sin and hasn’t gotten around to that one yet. The important thing is to make sure that they are in that cycle. If they aren’t, then confront them about getting back on it. If they ARE still on it, try to find out what stage they’re at and help them make it to the next one.
It’s also important to remember, that if they aren’t a Christian, then it doesn’t really matter what they do or don’t do. Not gambling isn’t going to get them to heaven. Not having sex outside of marriage isn’t going to get them to heaven. Neither will being straight instead of gay. None of that really matters if they haven’t given their life to Christ. So judging them for sins doesn’t really make sense.
#8 – Learn about addiction
Very often, the issues people struggle with the most relate to addiction. Addiction is a very serious thing and something most people don’t truly understand. I strongly advise you learn as much as you can about it, as it’s probably quite a bit different than you realize. Addiction makes people act in ways that seem very strange and hard to understand.
It’s not an issue of will-power, and it often takes more than just desire and effort to conquer. God sometimes will heal addictions, but He doesn’t always. Usually it takes a lot of counseling and working through the issues that lie deep at the root of the addiction. Addiction is just a symptom of a much deeper problem. And I wouldn’t be surprised if God refuses to heal some addictions because He wants them to find and address that deep problem.
#9 – Realize that psychological issues are real
It’s important to realize that psychological issues are real. Sadly many Christians believe that psychology is a bunch of quackery and that recognized syndromes and pathologies are nothing more than just excuses.
Again, God does sometimes heal these things, but not always. And many syndromes can be a disability to people and lead them to be unfairly judged.
Sometimes people need medication, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as the medication isn’t being used in an unhealthy way. For instance, anti-depressants are very important for people who have chronic depression and are physically unable to enjoy life even when things are going well. But, anti-depressants can be abused by doctors prescribing them to people going through bad situations. We need to be able to grieve and turn to God for support in tough times instead of drugs.
It’s nearly impossible to really understand people who have psychological issues, so judging them is really unfair. And it’s not exactly rare, either. In fact it’s extremely common. Most go undiagnosed and that’s really sad. Therapy, unfortunately, has a bad stigma attached to it. People don’t want to think of themselves as crazy, and they DEFINITELY don’t want OTHERS to think they’re crazy.
But, psychological issues don’t MEAN you’re crazy. I’m not crazy, but I went to a counselor for a few years. No one was raised perfectly, and it’s very possible that any given person has mild to severe emotional or mental issues stemming from things that happened in their past. Those issues can make certain things extremely difficult that would be easy for the average person.
For example, it’s been shown that people naturally project onto God the traits of their earthly father. So, trusting God may be fairly easy for someone who grew up with a loving a trustworthy father, but extremely difficult for someone who was abused and molested by theirs.
#10 – Be open about your struggles
It can be really hard for us to allow our struggles to be exposed to others, but it’s very important. If you try to help other people with their struggles but aren’t open about your own, you will often be seen as being a hypocrite. This is especially true if others have seen you do things that you shouldn’t have done, even if it’s something as small as losing your temper or telling a white lie.
One thing you’ll quickly learn, if you haven’t already, is that we Christians are under a microscope. We are scrutinized and judged very strictly because of our faith. The world expects that we’ll be judgmental, so they look for any imperfection they can find so they can write us off as hypocrites.
For whatever reason, most people seem to mistakenly believe that to be a Christian you have to be perfect. So, they think anyone who becomes a Christian is essentially claiming to be perfect. This really irritates them, especially considering they know we aren’t. They get upset at Christians the way Jesus got upset at the pharisees and teachers of the law.
That’s why I think it’s really important to be open with others about our struggles. Let others know what God is convicting you of and what you’re working on. Apologize and admit your failures and ask for forgiveness. This will help change their perceptions of what a Christian should be. We aren’t perfect, we’re just forgiven. And that same forgiveness is available to them!
Okay, so there you have it. Our 10 ways to not be a judgmental hypocrite! I’m just glad there weren’t 11 ways, cuz then I’d have to get rid of one so that there’d be an even 10. I’m so OCD…I should really go back to that counselor!